Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni --
Aviation ordnance Marines with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 (VMFA (AW 224) work around the clock to ensure jets are ready to fulfill their mission for Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 at Wing One Royal Thai Air Force Base, Nakhon Ratchasima, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 18.
"Our work revolves solely around the flight schedule," said Cpl. Andrew Welliver, an aviation ordnance technician and quality assurance safety observer with VMFA (AW )- 224.
Ordnance Marines work grueling shifts because their job revolves around the flight schedule. These long shifts though, make ordnance Marines one of the closest-knit groups in the Marine Corps' air wing.
"If you compare the workload we have with any other shop in the air wing, we have double the work because not only do we have to complete our normal workload, we have to configure everything for the flight schedule the next day," said Welliver.
"It's one of the reasons ordnance sticks together and have the camaraderie we do, because the flight schedule has so many moving parts, we work through it together and try to make each other better."
The purpose of VMFA (AW )- 224's involvement in CG 13 is for the F/A-18D pilots to drop ordnance while conducting bilateral training with RTAF pilots. Assuring the pilots are able to complete this mission rests on the backs of the ordnance technicians. Their job, however, entails more than just loading ordnance onto the aircraft.
"We also check the weapons systems in the jets, repair and replace gear on the jets that help drop the ordnance as well," said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Lynch, an aviation ordnance technician with VMFA (AW )- 224.
Loading ordnance onto aircraft requires a lot of know-how as the F/A-18D can support many types of ordnance.
"The F/A-18D is a versatile weapon, which is good, but it can make the job intimidating sometimes because there's a lot of ordnance we can load on it," said Lynch.
"We also take a lot of pride in our job because we can put anything on the jet, and we can deliver."
Getting a solid grasp on the job isn't easy and can take a new Marine some time to get used to. The hardest part of the job understands the seemingly endless nuances there are to making the aircraft and ordnance work in unison.
"If you have a guy who is fresh out of the schoolhouse you literally have to guide him step by step," said Welliver. "You take for granted what you know when you've been doing the job for a while. You can teach a new guy everything they need to know, but without the application of that knowledge, it doesn't mean a whole lot."
The mistakes of a new Marine can set a shop back, sometimes for hours, causing unexpected problems loading and quality checking the ordnance. While mistakes cause setbacks, they are expected with new Marines and give everyone the opportunity to learn something that will get them out of a jam in the future.
"I actually love days like that because it means we're all going to learn something, and learning in our job is essential," said Welliver.
"Knowledge gained can be the difference between spending two hours versus thirty minutes working on something."
Because ordnance is very hands-on, the chance to sharpen one's craft and learn something new is always available.
"Ordnance is one of those jobs where you never stop learning," said Welliver. "Even if you are the best ordnance man, you'll still be able to learn something."
The ongoing learning process is something ordnance Marines take a lot of pride in. To be wellrounded in their profession and to help those who are learning improve is also very important.
In doing these things, Marines are fulfilling CG 13's primary objective of strengthening our military-to-military cooperation with Thailand. But what this means the most to these Marines is knowing they've done their job as well as it could be done.
"It's very rewarding when you see the jet going out with all the ordnance you put on yourself," said Lynch. "When the jet comes back and the pilot says, 'That missile you loaded hit target perfectly, good job', I really take a lot of pride in that."